- Portuguese saying (allegedly)
- Me, after seeing Etta James
- Michael J. Fox, January issue of Esquire.
- Larry Fleinhart, Numb3rs, on getting ready to leave the monastery
- my adaptation of the litany against fear
10a.m. - stress out
11a.m. - panic
12 noon - tear hair
1p.m. - gnash teeth
1:30 p.m. - eat lunch. Include chocolate
2p.m. – flit from task to task, never spending more than five minutes on any one thing, create mess, be convinced that alphabetical paperclips would solve all my problems (how couldn’t they? I mean, it’s alphabetical paperclips!), lose presents in mess
3p.m. - have hysterics
3:30 p.m. – nap
As you can probably imagine, Monday was highly unproductive. In the evening, I attempted to get a grip by writing a list for Tuesday and printed in capital letters at the top was GET OVERVIEW OF XMAS, because I am that anal-retentive and my lack of perspective so profound that only by the proverbial writing of a list and checking it twice (or 10 times) could I begin to hope for less holiday angst. So I got an overview, not only of Christmas, but also everything else that has to be done before the holidays - I have a Very Ambitious Plan to be finished by the weekend (stop laughing!) - and realized that I have a deadline, not to mention wrapping, decorating, last-minute running around and in other words, I'm going to throw some distracting links out there that you can use in between your own hysterics and then I'm running out the door.
Rail Europe has a quite adorable (and goofy) Christmas card.
I'm a weather fanatic (hey, it's compelling) and was highly entertained by this weather quiz. As well, I got an old suspicion confirmed and I hope you don't mind if I ruin one of the answers for you. My housekeeper used to come on Thursdays and for the longest time, I claimed that it would always snow when my floors had just been washed. Turns out that I wasn't completely insane and that most major snowfalls in Toronto do indeed happen on Thursdays. Who knew?
Something more addictive than Minesweeper. An alleged Air Force test that's both incredibly simple and an excellent procrastination activity. My best time so far it is almost 12 seconds. I use it as a reward. I'll be allowed to play again on December 23.
And penultimately, another seasonal link. I belong to an email list for Danes outside of Denmark and every year, one of the members does this fantastic bilingual advent calendar that's entertaining, as well as educational. Enjoy!
I was talking to a friend who lives in South Carolina, who told me she'd seen a cormorant doing yoga the other day (or at least it looked like it was doing yoga). I countered with The Pigeon That Hated Snow - you can just see the ICK!, can't you?
But still, it's not time for the Christmas spirit yet, because there’s plenty of time, isn’t there and I don’t want to be sick of the holiday stuff before The Big Day arrives. When it comes decorating my home, I'm just not that into it this year. I'm even thinking of not decorating at all, but then tell myself that there’s still plenty of time to change my mind. Except there’s not really, is there? Because today’s the 16th and Christmas is in 7 days and how in the name of Rudolph did that happen? Every time I realize that there are only SEVEN DAYS till Christmas, I am completely shocked. Even when I remind myself of the fact several times a day, I am still shocked every single time..
And I think I’ve figured out. It’s because of my advent candle. In the grand tradition of advent candles in my house, I’m a little behind, except for some odd reason (that I’m a dimwit?), this year, I believe the candle, not everything else in the world and according to the candle
It’s last weekend.
I think I need to get my arse in gear.
Are you ready?
I was talking to friend about euthanasia the other day - yes, I know, we have such uplifting talks ‘round here. We were in wholehearted agreement about the barbarism that is our ability to, when the end is inevitable and filled with suffering, help an animal to a dignified, painless end, but not do the same for people, should they wish it, because… I dunno, human suffering is noble and useful before death? And then the subject turned to Robert Latimer and things got a little hairy.
Fourteen years ago, Latimer killed his severely disabled daughter Tracy and last week, his parole application was denied. And I will come right out and say that I rejoiced when I heard that, because I think what he did was wrong with a capital W, because no one has the right to "help" someone die who isn’t capable of asking for that help. My friend is a parent and believes that although the rules may say that what he did was wrong, it is quite possible that in this particular context, it may have been right. So right off the bat, we were on completely different sides in the debate but she did challenge me to think about why I thought only people who can articulate their wish to end their suffering should get to do so. And when I spoke of the dangerous precedent, of the devaluing of life that already occurs with disability, of the slippery slope and how cases like Tracy, Ashley, Katie and Ruben frighten me to no end, she mentioned that it wouldn't happen to me. That I am not in danger of someone deciding that my life is not worth living and taking actions to end it.
Every time I post about cases like this, someone will say that I don't have to worry about it, that I am safe and I appreciate the sentiment behind that, I really do. And I know I am safe, because I am cognitively "normal", can articulate my desires and I have loving friends and family who will be an extra layer of protection to advocate for my rights. But the truth of that sentiment is exactly my point, because my second line of defense is a very real reliance on others to advocate for me. How many non-disabled people do you know who need that extra protection against being medically modified or “helped” to end their lives? And what happens to the disabled person who doesn't have resourceful people who will fight tooth and nail for them to have the same rights as everyone else?
Aside from our developmental stage, what is the difference between me and Tracy Latimer? What makes it okay to help her escape her chronic pain and not me, who also has chronic pain? Was her life a living hell or did it balance the pain with joy? And if the answer is that we can never know for sure if all possibilities to help her had been exhausted and will never know what she would have wanted, how can it be right to "give her peace"? What kind of assumptions do you have to make in such a case and is it okay to make a decision like that based on assumptions? Who gets to decide? Her parents? Can you assume that all parents will come from a position of altruism and objectivity, that they will not be affected by years of exhausting around-the-clock care or by the heartbreak of watching a child in pain? So you'd need some sort of official body to make the decision but again, who gets to decide? Say the cut-off for approval to euthanize or medically modify someone is decided to be a developmental stage of three months, like Tracy and Ashley. All laws breathe and live and evolve, because societies evolve and something like this would therefore naturally evolve as cases were brought before this hypothetical Board.
First, doctors in Seattle believed it was okay too stunt Ashley's growth and not even a year later, doctors in Britain thought it was okay to do the same to Katie. There is a progression once a precedent has been set. The more of my neighbours who recycle, the more likely I am to recycle, because it has become the norm. There will be another Ashley or Katie and soon. If you listen to the debate, you will hear how many people are of the opinion that individuals similar to these girls don't have the same rights as someone who is ablebodied (or not developmentally delayed), opinions that range from segregation to different standards for medical interference (in the Times article about Katie, they made sure to specify that “[t]he treatments … would not be carried out on able-bodied people"), to stating that kids like this - and these particular paragons of humanity call the kids charming things like 'turnips' - should be killed at birth. Laws evolve because societies evolve. Or sometimes societies devolve and can you seriously guarantee that if it’s okay to alter/kill someone who will never grow older than three months, the line wouldn't be pushed to four months, then five and what then? Do you stop at a certain level of a developmental delay or do you not stop until there is no cognitive involvement? How do you assess the cognitive ability of someone who can't communicate? People who in the past would have been considered "killable" under such a law now have the communication technology that enables the rest of us to find out just how many of them have something to say. And what about pain? Can you guarantee me that someday someone isn't going to tell people like my parents who have a child with arthritis, that the only way to ease the suffering is to amputate the wrist that is causing such pain or because there is no cure, that the most loving thing they can do is do “give her/him peace”?
What is worse – not "helping" someone who should have been allowed to die or "helping" someone who should not have died? And who decides what qualifies as 'should'? Who decides what qualifies as intolerable pain - the norm, i.e., most people?
The thing that makes me feel sick inside is that part of me can see that it is possible Ashley might have a higher quality of life now that she will never grow any bigger. Or that it is conceivable that Tracy's life had so little quality that in this particular case, it may have been okay. Because I look at these girls from my cozy existence, these girls who have profound disabilities and think it must be a pretty awful life and if it were me, I might want that intervention or that final exit that would stop the pain. But what stops me in my tracks each time my mind goes even near that path is that there are many people out there who look at me and say that mine is a pretty awful life, what with the wheelchair, the chronic pain, massive amounts of medication and attendant side effects, barriers, limitations, etc., and those people honestly feel that if they were me, they wouldn't want to live. So according to some, I could certainly qualify for this program of mercy.
And that's why cases like Tracy, Ashley, Katie and Ruben terrify me. Because we are not so different after all.
Something I saw the other day made me laugh. And prompted thinking about a contest. It’s been a while since we’ve had a contest ‘round here.
I briefly considered making A Schedule™ the prize, but am pretty sure it’s too close to the deadline for it to be of any use and then there’s that thing about not all of you out there being knitters. So instead, I offer up an 8x10 print of your choice from the multitude of photographs posted here or on Flickr. Or, should the winner be a knitter and really desirous of A Schedule, we can do that instead.
Enough preambling, here it is:
What song did I spend the day humming after seeing this
I caught a song in the grocery store the other day. You know how it goes – there you are, somewhere between the pickles and the orange juice and the music you’ve so far largely ignored (due to the abominable selection) changes at first imperceptibly and then somehow, you find yourself humming without quite realizing which song and then you hear it and either continue humming along – maybe even singing along or am I the only one who sings happily off-key in the produce section? - or you shut your mouth, aghast at what’s emerging from your vocal cords. These days, supermarket muzak is a bit of a mixed bag – on the one hand, 80s music has officially become store entertainment and I’m a little worried about admitting just how much of that I can sing along with, on the other, sometimes you get the aural equivalent of a Twinkie.
But I digress. As usual. So I caught a song and it stayed with me not just to the cash, as they usually tend to do, dropping off me as I near the exit, but for days. Weeks, even, on and off. Beyond the Sea. Extremely hummable, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the only reason it’s with me still. I think it’s the sea thing.
What is it about the ocean that it exerts such a grip on us?
I grew up in an island nation, a country consisting of one peninsula and somewhere around 500 islands and no matter where you are, the ocean is never far away. It is there in the many Danish specialties involving fish, it is there in the weather, forever raining and cool and even when the sun is shining, a nice warm summer’s day is in the high teens (low 60s in Fahrenheit) and it is there, I think, in the national identity, never far from the Viking heritage. And I wonder if it is just people like me, people who grew up close to the sea, for whom it has this pull or if others feel it too, once they've seen it? Or maybe it's that we’re 70% water and the planet’s 70% water and if you think about that too long, you can really blow your mind...
I've always wanted to go to sea. I mentioned Cousteau last week - I was obsessed with him as a child and wanted desperately to join the Calypso when I grew up. Nothing else in the world seemed as fascinating as diving below the surface and entering another world. Well, except for that time when they were diving below the ice in the Arctic. I could never do that - what if you couldn't find the hole to get out again (I like to have an escape route)? I read books about going to sea, never tiring of one particular book about a family that sailed around the world, spending hours imagining life on a sailboat in the middle of the Pacific. I read about school ships, wanting so badly to be one of the lucky few that got to learn on a tall ship. And then there was Thor Heyerdahl and his experiment in ship construction and yes, the Vikings.
(Demented aside: ideally, when I die, I would like to be placed on a smallish Viking ship, surrounded by special items from my life and from the people who are 'burying' me and then I would like to be set aflame and pushed out to sea right around sunset. Nothing would feel more right)
There was a reality show in the summer called Pirate Master and although it was a pretty nifty idea, the practical application of said idea turned out not to be so fascinating from a game perspective. But I watched it obsessively, for the glimpses of the contestants crawling about in the rigging, high up among the masts and was there with them in spirit, deeply envious that not only did they get to have amazing pirate outfits, but they got to sail a tall ship. Because pirates are cool, almost as cool as Vikings. Sexy, even. Although I'm pretty sure that the actual pirates weren't so much, what with the scurvy, the lice and the likely touch of sociopathy, but we’re not talking about those kinds of pirates, are we? We talking about the sanitized version in my daydream and in that, nothing beats life on the high seas, the sails and the rigging, sleeping in a hammock, falling asleep to the sound of the waves lapping against the hull and the creak of wood.
I live close to a large lake now. A very large lake. A lake so big that the entire country of Denmark could easily be tucked into it and so big that you cannot see the far shore. But it doesn't count, because although the lapping of the waves sound a little bit like real waves and the screams of the seagulls start to approximate the real thing, the smell is missing. That bracing mix of wet sand, salt water and seaweed that is so intoxicating, calming and invigorating, all at the same time and lord, I miss it. It's home to me, the Danish sea especially, but any ocean will do. I'll go for weeks, sometimes even months, without thinking about it, but then I'll catch a song in the supermarket, see a picture on a website or there'll be something in the air on a blustery autumn day and all of me will yearn for salt water and the homesick will be so strong that I can barely breathe.
So it pulls at me still, after an absence of years, more than a decade since I’ve been near the sea and sometimes I wonder why or if it will ever let go, but at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. Only knowing that it is home matters.
Three things have happened this week that have caused behaviour best described as unseemly, quite possibly shameful and which has significantly set back my personal growth.
Thing #1: It may be somewhat of an understatement to say that I'm slightly competitive. I try – oh, lord, do I try - to control it, especially when playing games with children, as I believe it may be cruel to wipe the floor with someone who's underage while cackling maniacally as you win. Besides, it's not a fair fight and it is much more fun to win when you're on a level playing field. Which brings me to the Minesweeper story. An innocuous, deceptively quick little game, it has the potential for addiction built right in. Which I discovered to the point of incurring a Minesweeper injury. If that wasn't bad enough, both Ken and Stephanie joined the “fun”, which took things from serious to demented and I didn’t quit until I reached 83 seconds on the expert level (Ken and Steph having had the good sense to abandon ship several weeks prior to this event). I haven't played it since, even when I discovered a website that claims that it is possible to do better than 83 seconds, because I know myself. I am on the wagon now and being all too aware of the problem I once had, afraid of even opening the program.
Which brings me to trivia. Which I love and not just because I possess what an old friend once called the "Amazing Mind for Useless Facts", but also because even when you get it wrong, you learn something and I like that. So when Willowtree started a trivia contest, I naturally signed up as fast as I could and at first managed to contain the competitive instincts fairly well, just having a good time challenging myself. Until the man announced that I was the winner of the October tournament, then cruelly taking the win away from me when he discovered that someone had beat me by two points. TWO POINTS! Is anyone other than me hearing the term “gateway drug” wafting about? Yep, the past month was spent compulsively playing this game with the result, I'm sad to report, that I won the November tournament. I even received a trophy